In case you hadn’t noticed, today is St. Valentine’s Day. This day is observed all over the world as an occasion to express feelings of affection. It is named in honor of St. Valentine, a third-century Roman martyr who died on February 14 around the year 270. He is said to be the patron saint of lovers.
Many traditions are associated with him. One my mother told me when I was a boy had to do with his imprisonment. He sent messages from the jail on heart-shaped ivy leaves to a friend on the outside. This story gave rise to the practice of sending similar messages on heart-shaped greeting cards, called “valentines.”
Whether or not this legend is true, the greeting card manufacturers make sure we see their displays of valentine cards in every store we enter. Even convenience stores and gas stations sell flowers to remind us of the day. We buy the cards and the flowers because we want to communicate love with tangible expressions. These gestures touch the heart of their recipients.
The first letter of John says a lot about how we may love God. What touches his heart is more than words. “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). God sees it when we put our love for him into action by loving others in tangible ways. “And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 3:21).
Love grows by expression. The more we show our love by serving others, the more our love for them, and for God, will grow. The famous Bible teacher Dr. John Mitchell used to say, “Love is sincerely wishing the other person God’s very best and taking whatever action is necessary to see that accomplished.” It’s true for marriages, workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, and anywhere else love is needed.
I read a story about a man who was standing in the greeting card section of a store. He was having trouble picking out a card. A clerk asked if she could help.
He said, “Well, it’s our fortieth wedding anniversary but I can’t find a card that says what I want to say. You know forty years ago it wouldn’t have been any trouble picking out a card. Back then I thought I knew what love was. But we love each other so much more today. I just can’t find a card that says it.”
I thought as I read this, “Here is a married couple who have shared forty years of unselfishness, forgiveness, companionship and taking care of each other.” That is love. It has grown and grown because it has been expressed ‘in actions and in truth.’ No wonder he couldn’t find an appropriate card!”